SNP suffers huge losses as Labour reclaims Scottish heartland

Having won 56 out of a possible 59 seats in 2015, the nationalists have been reduced to just nine MPs at Westminster.

Key Points
  • The SNP has suffered its worst election in a more than a decade
  • The SNP ‘failed to convince’ the people of Scotland on independence, leader and First Minister of Scotland John Swinney said
  • The party had said a majority of seats would be a mandate for negotiations on holding another referendum
  • Having won 56 out of a possible 59 seats in 2015, the SNP has been reduced to just nine MPs at Westminster
  • No final result in the UK General Election on Friday after multiple recounts failed to verify the votes in a seat in the Highlands

The SNP has suffered its worst election in more than a decade as Labour reclaimed swathes of its Scottish heartland.

Having won 56 out of a possible 59 seats in 2015, the nationalists have been reduced to just nine MPs at Westminster.

A seat is yet to declare, but the result is clear – it has been a disaster for the SNP.

The election map will remain incomplete after multiple recounts failed to verify the votes in Inverness, Skye and Ross-shire. A futher recount is scheduled to start at 10.30am on Saturday.

Leader and First Minister of Scotland John Swinney said the party has “failed to convince” the people of Scotland on independence and faces a period of “soul searching”.

The party said a majority of seats would be a mandate for negotiations on holding another referendum.

“I have to accept that we failed to convince people of the urgency of independence in this election campaign,” he said.

“Therefore, we need to take the time to consider and to reflect on how we deliver our commitment to independence – which remains absolute.

“As somebody who has devoted their entire adult life to the winning of Scottish independence – not for an abstract reason, but because I believe it will transform the lives of our people for the better – we need to get that approach correct in the forthcoming period.

“I accept that we need to engage with, listen to and learn from the people of Scotland on how we take forward our arguments for independence.”

Swinney: ‘SNP has been disunited and not speaking to the public’

Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scottish independence “wasn’t really put front and centre” of the SNP’s campaign – despite it being line one, page one of the manifesto.

Labour will frame Friday’s results as a rejection of nationalism and a damning indictment of the SNP’s time in power.

SNP figures are keen to see it as a rejection of Tory-rule in Westminster.

It started with the first constituency in Scotland to declare at around 2.40am, Kilmarnock and Loudoun. A safe seat for the SNP which changed hands to Labour with a dramatic swing of 22%.

Former Labour cabinet minister Douglas Alexander was returned to Westminster winning Lothian East from the SNP with a swing of 16%.

And Glasgow turned red, with Labour gaining every seat in an “absolutely historic day”, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said.

STV News

The wins continued, with constituency after constituency going to Labour and SNP MP after SNP MP failing to keep their jobs.

Sir Keir Starmer doubled the party’s vote in Scotland and at 5am declared victory after surpassing the threshold to form the next UK Government.

In Aberdeen, the SNP managed to hold on returning Westminster leader Stephen Flynn albeit with a much reduced majority.

“We are going to be beat,” he admitted in a victory speech that captured the sense of loss for the SNP.

He said the SNP would have to “regain the trust that has been lost at this election”.

Flynn: ‘We’re going to be beat’

Joanna Cherry, one of the party’s most high profile MPs, lost her seat of Edinburgh South West to Labour.

She said many voters felt the SNP had “dropped the ball” on the cause of Scottish independence and that the party’s reputation as “strong and competent in government” had taken a “battering”.

As the Conservatives lost seat after seat across England, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross failed to take the new constituency of Aberdeenshire North and Moray East.

Douglas Ross fails to win seat in Aberdeenshire North and Moray East

He said it was “deeply disappointing”.

His decision to stand in the constituency in the place of David Duguid led to his downfall, with the outgoing leader saying he would quit as leader regardless of the result.

He said that votes for Nigel Farage’s Reform UK had handed the SNP the seat. The party’s candidate Jo Hart came third with 5,562 votes, while Ross trailed his SNP rival by less than 1,000.

The Liberal Democrats took their single target seat in Scotland, winning Mid Dunbartonshire back from the SNP having embarassingly lost it under their former leader Jo Swinson in 2019.

Swinney said the SNP has to be “better at governing on behalf of the people of Scotland”, adding that the party was not “winning the argument” on Scottish independence.

He said: “Although we’re going to have a bad election result tonight, I still believe in my head and in my heart that Scotland will be better off as an independent country.

“But we’re obviously not winning that argument with the public to make that a priority at this moment, so we’ve got to think long and hard about how we address that question and I don’t think that in the early hours of the morning after a General Election I can give you the definitive answer to what we do in that circumstance.”

Sarwar said the First Minister “has got a lot of reflecting to do on a lot of things” after the party’s dismal performance.

“He spent the entire six weeks attacking the Labour Party because it seems the only person more depressed at the thought of the Tory Government ending and the Labour government was John Swinney and the SNP,” he said.

“You can see the verdict of the Scottish people, both to his approach in this election campaign but also the SNP’s approach to Government, where they have failed far too many people.”

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie thanked people who voted for his party.

“We have established our party as the third political force in Glasgow and have broken new ground across the country,” he said.

“These results are an important springboard for the Scottish Greens and show that we are well on track for big gains as we approach the next Scottish election in 2026 and the local elections in 2027.”

Insight Colin Mackay Political Editor

Labour promised change throughout the election and with this result they’ve delivered on the first part of that.

Now comes the really hard work of delivering in government.

That is going to be much, much tougher even than a gruelling election campaign.

But they’ve got a landslide win and a seismic win in Scotland as well because this is the SNP’s worst election performance in about a decade, certainly since 2010.

It’s a really, really difficult result for them to try and explain away.

This is the kind of result we would have expected if Humza Yousaf had stayed on as first minister and SNP leader.

They’ve been hoping for a bit more stability and a bit more return from John Swinney.

Then you look at the Conservatives, an absolute disaster of a campaign led to an absolute disaster of a result.

I mean, basically, when Rishi Sunak called the election in that downpour in Downing Street, it’s gone downhill from there.

The Scottish result, though, it seems to almost have kind of been counterintuitive in that they held on to five seats. The only big loss in Scotland really has been Douglas Ross.

It is quite a big loss because he has been the leader, but he is no more.

And for the Lib Dems, well, do you know what, they target so well that they get an incredible response and an incredible return for not much of a vote.

Beyond that, Reform has done better than pretty much anyone really anticipated. And Alba has, at another election now, vanished without trace.

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code